Advanced technologies have made access to information easily accessible, giving consumers the ability to research, shop and pay for products and services across multiple channels—including in-store, website, phone, social media and mobile. Consequently, there is an expectation that these channels create an integrated environment and a seamless experience focused on the customer—or more specifically, the omnichannel customer. A study of over 46,000 shoppers showed that omnichannel customers not only spend more than those who use a single channel, but are more likely to be repeat shoppers and recommend brands to family and friends. This modern consumer has created a significant challenge for businesses to take action and meet their needs. The current customer journey is complex, and with consumers taking countless different paths to purchase, how can businesses determine the best engagement strategy? The answer lies in the ability to adapt to evolving purchasing behavior and showcase a presence in the various channels that matter most to customers.
With an ever-increasing number of available resources, consumers—now more than ever—hold the power of information. On average, a consumer will consult 10.4 sources before making a purchasing decision. Reactive means of viewing content, such as online ads and email, are becoming less effective. Consumers are becoming more self-reliant and adept at finding extensive information on the web. With the majority of business-to-business buying cycles originating online—predominately on search engines, review sites and social media—the need for businesses to showcase a strong presence and create a positive experience for the omnichannel customer has never been more critical.
As consumers move on from this initial stage of the purchasing journey, their expectation for businesses to provide a seamless experience does not diminish. The payment process for omnichannel customers lacks a traditional path, requiring businesses to provide multiple, integrated payment channels—such as in-store, ecommerce and mobile—to meet their varied needs. Customers, at times, review products online at home and then visit a store to make a purchase, and vice versa. Globally, it is not uncommon that customers utilize smartphones in-store as a form of shopping assistance. In China, shoppers seamlessly switch between online and offline channels at very high rates. They also want the ability to purchase products and services using payment methods that work for them—whether it is cash, credit card, mobile wallets or other payment applications. A recent publication by yStats regarding online payment methods in Europe found that more than half of ecommerce consumers abandoned a shopping cart because their desired payment method was unavailable. With evolving trends influencing the way consumers now shop and pay, having multi-channel payment acceptance solutions that accept new and convenient payment methods are becoming a requirement for a successful business.
There is another aspect that is often the most crucial in the growth and sustainability of a business and one that permeates the entirety of the purchasing cycle—customer service. Consumers expect businesses to respond to inquiries through multiple channels in a timely manner. But with this increased responsibility to provide enhanced service comes the afforded ability to review, track and analyze the customer journey. These valued insights, gathered through multiple sources, provide businesses with real-time data that can help optimize processes and identify inefficiencies. Personalized customer service, paired with optimized business practices equate to satisfied customers and higher customer loyalty. A study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, Inc. concluded that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, while their weaker omnichannel counterparts sit at 33 percent.
Omnichannel customers have high demands. But in meeting these demands, businesses have the opportunity to leverage data to improve internal operations and create optimized customer experiences. As we move into an era where more and more devices are connected through the Internet of Things, and consumers start to adopt new levels of engagement—such as virtual and augmented reality—it will be the businesses that are prepared to adapt to evolving behavior that will have a competitive advantage.